Central American-Inspired Chicken

Early yesterday morning, Kirby packed his things and left for a long weekend in Puerto Rico. Still stuck in Washington, DC until the Friday night, I couldn’t help but think about all the traveling I wished I was doing.

Costa Rican waterfalls

I thought about my travels to Costa Rica and the day I hiked up and down a waterfall.  We found the cascada purely by chance – because the wooden bridge to the nearest town had rotten away. I detoured our Costa Rican roadtrip and wound up on a hike in the rainforest. This is only one of 3 waterfalls we stumbled upon that day.

My Nicaraguan Mama and me waiting for a bus to Chinandega

I also reflected on my visit to Chinandega, Nicaragua where I visited my old host family. This woman, my Mama, let my friends and I stay with her for a week for the simple price of a bag of rice and beans. She taught me to cook cosas del horno, arroz con leche, tamales, pico de gallo, and a whole bunch of other goodies. Since then, I’ve had a fascination with Central American cuisine and their creative use of spices and local ingredients.

With these past travels and adventures on my mind, I was inspired to write down a recipe that I made for a family vacation this winter.  We were skiing in Park City Utah, whose grocery stores contain an abundance of Central American and Mexican produce. So, in honor of Kirby’s vacation in Puerto Rico, and my insane jealousy of that trip, below is a complex and filling chicken recipe.

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Chicken with Fire-Roasted Tomatillo Sauce

Servings: 4 People
1 lb tomatillos, husked
3 serrano peppers
4 bonesless skinless chicken breasts, trimmed
1 Tbs olive oil
1 onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3 serrano peppers
2/3 cup chopped cilantro
1 tsp salt
1 tsp each garlic powder, ground cumin, ground coriander, combined
1 Tbs pumpkin seeds, toasted (can use pine nuts if pumpkin seeds are not available)

preparation

Preheat broiler to high. Place husked tomatillos and whole serranos on a rimmed baking sheet.  Broil blackened in spots, about 5-10 minutes. Flip tomatillos and serranos and broil for an additional 5-10 minutes. Remove from broiler and place everything in a blender, including the juices. Blend mixer until mostly smooth (a few chunks are ok for texture if desired).

Season chicken breasts with salt and spice mixture (garlic powder, cumin, coriander). Spray grill pans, or saute pans, with non-stick cooking spray and heat. Cook chicken on medium heath, turning once, until no longer pink in the center (~15 minutes).

Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a large skillet over low-medium heat. Saute onion and garlic, stirring occasionally, until soft and golden (~5 minutes). Add pureed tomatillos and serranos and simmer, uncovered, for 2 minutes. Add cilantro and 1 teaspoon salt.  When you are 5 minutes from serving dinner, place the cooked chicken breasts  in the tomatillo sauce to coat.

Serve chicken breasts with plenty of sauce spooned over. You  may need more sauce than you think because it’s quite a hit! Sprinkle the chicken and sauce with pumpkin seeds and cilantro.  We ate this meal alongside a loaf of toasted bread, and an arugula and veggie salad.  If you’re looking for a heartier meal, try serving over a bed of brown rice with a side of simmered black beans!

Recipe adapted from Epicurious
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